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Top festivals to look out for in Halifax and Calderdale during 2015

PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 February 2015

Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade attracts all sorts

Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade attracts all sorts

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Rubber duck racing, dock leaf pudding cook off and burlesque – a weird and wonderful year of Calderdale festivals

The crowds gather for Hebden Bridge duck raceThe crowds gather for Hebden Bridge duck race

Calderdale’s market towns and villages offer an eclectic range of annual festivals and events, many of which are deeply rooted in the traditional life of the area. Mummers’ plays (seasonal folk plays) are performed on Good Friday in Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge and there’s a popular Duck Race in Hebden Bridge on Easter Monday (that’s April 6th this year). The latter is a chance to go quackers for the day and raise some much-needed cash for organisations supported by the Rotary Club. The race starts at County Bridge in the centre of town, next to the new town hall, and ends at West End Bridge out on the A646. There’s also a Decorated Duck Competition, so get out your glue-pens and glitter without delay.

If you’re looking for an unusual way to fulfil your daily greens quotient, you could head to Mytholmroyd on the third Sunday of April for the World Dock Pudding Championships to sample a delicacy made from common dock leaves that’s little-known outside the Calder Valley (probably for very good reason). And if your diet is deficient in pork pie, The Old Bridge Inn in Ripponden is the place for you next month when it hosts the Pork Pie Appreciation Society’s annual competition (those judges must be made of stern stuff).

May looks set to be a busy month with the Pennine Spring Music Festival in Heptonstall (25th-30th), Todmorden Carnival (23rd) and the Burlesque Festival in – where else? – Hebden Bridge (April 30th to May 3rd). This will be the third time that local burlesque performers Lady Wildflower and Heidi Bang Tidy (not their real names apparently) have staged their dazzling extravaganza, bringing together sharp choreography, alternative glamour and good old British eccentricity.

Summer is really when the festival and show season takes off in Calderdale with the Brighouse 1940s’ Weekend (June 6th-7th), which attracts many thousands of land girls and fly boys to the town every year; Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade (June 7th); Hebden Bridge Arts Festival (June 26th to July 5th), which this year features none other than South Yorkshire’s favourite cardigan-wearing crooner John Shuttleworth; Hebden Bridge Vintage Car Weekend (August 1st-2nd); agricultural shows in Halifax (August 8th) and Todmorden (June 20th); and Halifax Food & Drink Festival (June – exact date to be confirmed).

Norland Scarecrow Festival attracts big names  look, theres ET!Norland Scarecrow Festival attracts big names  look, theres ET!

As autumn rolls round, you’d think everyone would just want to put their feet up for a well-earned rest. But, no, the good people of Calderdale are at it again with the South Pennines Walk & Ride Festival (September 5th-20th); Norland Scarecrow Festival (September 7th); Brighouse Arts Festival, Halifax Heritage Festival and the Ted Hughes Festival (September – exact dates to be confirmed).

As if all that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s also Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival, which began in 1977 to mark the Queen’s silver jubilee and has since grown into an entertaining spectacle involving large numbers of the local community. Held on the first weekend in September, the focal point of this unique festival is a 16ft-high, two-wheeled, decorated rush-cart pulled by 60 chaps in panama hats, white shirts, black trousers and clogs.

The precarious centrepiece is accompanied by musicians, mummers and folk dancers and, while the procession rolls round town, a team of young ladies take turns in riding on top of the cart. Some, apparently, have actually lived to tell the tale too. And then, as if by magic, it’s winter and Calderdale joins the rest of us in celebrating Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas with a range of suitable festive markets, concerts and events across the district.

I don’t know about you, but I feel exhausted just thinking about it. But not the energetic, creative festival fans who populate this most colourful of Yorkshire dales – they’re probably already planning next year’s shenanigans. n

To find out more about the events, festivals and general goings-on in Halifax and Calderdale, click on visitcalderdale.com, call 01422 368725
or email halifax@ytbtic.co.uk

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